Tiger Woods’ strong comeback from injury continued as he finished tied fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that concluded Sunday at the Bay Hill Golf Club in Florida.
The American, who has won the Bay Hill tournament eight times in the past, was in contention on the final day but was unable to match the charging Rory McIlroy, who shot a final round 64 to end the tournament at 18-under, eight shots ahead of Woods.
However, the 14-time major champion was happy with the performance after recording his second consecutive top five finish in as many weeks after finishing tied second at the Valspar Championships the previous weekend (March 11). It was the first time Woods achieved the consecutive top five result since the 2013 Masters and Players championships.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational was the 42-year-old’s fifth tournament since returning from injury and despite indicating that he is far from his best, he has been in contention to win in the last two events. Woods admitted that his recent results were unexpected, but was happy to be back to playing on a consistent level after the uncertainty that surrounded his game at the start of the year.
The American golf icon was unsure if he will ever play golf again at the end of 2017 owing to a chronic back injury that has plagued him in recent years. He had to undergo four surgeries thus far and he last won a tournament on the PGA Tour in 2013.
“If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat,” Woods said, as quoted by ESPN. “Everything was an unknown. I didn’t know what I was going to feel like, what I was going to do, what swing I was going to make.
“Especially Torrey Pines [the Farmers Insurance Open], was the rough going to be the same pain I was going to feel like I felt last year? I don’t know. But coming through that, I’ve gotten a little better, a little bit sharper, and I worked my way up there into the leaderboard back-to-back weeks and had a chance, which is nice,” he said.
Woods congratulated McIlroy on his performance at the Bay Hill Golf Club after the Northern Irishman stormed to his first win since 2016. Ironically his last win came on September 25, 2016, the day Arnold Palmer passed away and the former world number one paid tribute to the American, who is fondly known as the king.
“It was a great two weeks of being in contention again. I feel like I’m getting a little better. Great playing by Rory today to win at the King’s place. Arnie would have been proud of golf today and the charges!!!” Woods wrote on his official Twitter account.
“It’s ironic to think that the last time I won was when Arnie passed away. To be able to create my own little piece of history on the 18th green here was pretty special,” McIlroy said after his win Sunday, as quoted by BBC Sport. “I’m just so happy to be back in the winner’s circle again and win a tournament that has Arnold Palmer’s name on it, someone that means so much to us in the game of golf.”
Woods’ next assignment will be the Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club and despite not winning an event since 2013, the American’s form in recent weeks has seen him being installed by some bookmakers as the joint-favorite to win the green jacket alongside world number one Dustin Johnson.